Here are the senators to watch in the fight over filling Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat on the Supreme Court

WASHINGTON – The race is on for Republicans to quickly fill the Supreme Court vacancy left after Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death, though some GOP senators are on board with the idea of holding a confirmation vote before the Nov. 3 election.  

President Donald Trump has expressed a preference for getting a candidate confirmed before Election Day. Democrats argue that the Senate should allow the winner of the presidential election, whether it is Joe Biden or Trump, to put forth the nominee for Ginsburg's seat.

Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the chamber, and after several key senators announced their positions on Monday, Republicans likely have the votes to confirm a nominee.

Several Republicans, including some facing tough elections, have lined up behind Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's pledge to hold a vote on Trump’s nominee. That includes Sens. Martha McSally, R-Ariz.; Thom Tillis, R-N.C.; and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee – the panel charged with examining judicial nominees – backtracked on his previous remarks vowing to oppose a Supreme Court nomination so close to an election. Graham faces a competitive election of his own this year.

Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, have said they do not think a confirmation vote should take place before the election. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said he would not be making any comments until he had the chance to talk with his fellow Republicans Tuesday at their weekly lunch. 

Here is what key senators have said about the issue:  

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Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska

Murkowski, a moderate Republican, reiterated her previous comments about filling a vacancy in a Sept. 20 statement: "For weeks, I have stated that I would not support taking up a potential Supreme Court vacancy this close to the election. Sadly, what was then a hypothetical is now our reality, but my position has not changed." 

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, speaks with reporters during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on Wednesday.

Murkowski voted for Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, but she voted against advancing the nomination of his second nominee, Brett Kavanaugh. Murkowski voted “present” on the final vote for Kavanaugh to allow a Senate colleague to attend his daughter’s wedding but said she opposed the nomination.

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Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah

Romney, a moderate who is sometimes critical of Trump, has not yet commented on a replacement. Elected in 2018, he was not yet in office when the Senate voted on Kavanaugh and Gorsuch.  

He has bucked Trump on other issues in the past, though. Romney voted to impeach Trump on one of the two counts in February and has frequently criticized the president, drawing his ire on Twitter.   

Romney declined to comment on the issue when asked by reporters in the Capitol Monday and said he would speak with his Senate colleagues first before making a decision. 

"I’m not going to speak to this until I get to speak with my colleagues," he said. 

10/22/19 2:34:15 PM -- Washington, DC, U.S.A  -- Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) during the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing on Assessing the Impact of Turkey's Offensive in Northeast Syria on Tuesday, October 22, 2019.  --    Photo by Jack Gruber, USA TODAY staff ORG XMIT:  JG Mitt Romney 10/22/2019 [Via MerlinFTP Drop]

Romney spokesperson Liz Johnson shot down a viral Twitter post alleging Romney had committed to not confirming a nominee until after Inauguration Day in January 2021, calling it “grossly false. #fakenews.”  

The senator’s statement on Ginsburg’s death released Friday evening hailed her “record of distinguished service” but did not reference filling the vacancy.  

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Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine

Collins, a moderate Republican facing a tough reelection race in Maine, said after Ginsburg's death she did not think the Senate should vote on a Supreme Court nominee before the election, though she left the door open to voting on one after the election.

Collins voted for Kavanaugh and Gorsuch.  

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, pauses for reporters following a vote, at the Capitol in Washington on Feb. 12, 2020.

"Given the proximity of the presidential election, however, I do not believe that the Senate should vote on the nominee prior to the election," she said. "In fairness to the American people, who will either be reelecting the president or selecting a new one, the decision on a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court should be made by the President who is elected on November 3rd." 

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo.

Gardner, who is facing a tight reelection race in Colorado, said in a Monday evening statement he would support moving forward to fill the vacancy. 

"When a President exercises constitutional authority to nominate a judge for the Supreme Court vacancy, the Senate must decide how to best fulfill its constitutional duty of advice and consent," Gardner said. "I have and will continue to support judicial nominees who will protect our Constitution, not legislate from the bench, and uphold the law. Should a qualified nominee who meets this criteria be put forward, I will vote to confirm."

Gardner voted for Kavanaugh and Gorsuch. 

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Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., speaks beside during a news conference on Capitol Hill,  July 24, 2018 in Washington.

Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala.

Jones, the Democrat facing the toughest race in November, has yet to weigh in publicly on how the Senate should handle the vacancy left by Ginsburg. He has said previously that he would fight to block such an appointment.  

But Jones accused McConnell and Trump of dishonoring Ginsburg's legacy by focusing so quickly on the battle to replace her.  

U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., speaks during a Facebook campaign event on Sept. 11, 2020.

“I’m saddened – though not surprised – by how quickly this has turned into a political power play by Trump and McConnell,” he said in a campaign email on Saturday. “It not only dishonors the legacy of an American icon, it distorts the Constitutional process – a deliberate process that the Senate has always used to uphold the independence of our judicial branch.” 

Jones voted against Kavanaugh. He was not in the Senate for Gorsuch’s nomination.  

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V.

Democratic Senator from West Virginia Joe Manchin (C) speaks to members of the news media near the Senate subway on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, USA, 19 December 2018.

Manchin, a red-state Democrat, was originally thought to be a swing vote on the nomination. But in a statement released on Monday, he said the Senate should not act on a Supreme Court nomination before the election. 

"For the sake of the integrity of our courts and legal system, I do not believe the U.S. Senate should vote on a U.S. Supreme Court nominee before the November 3rd election," he said. 

Manchin voted for Kavanaugh and Gorsuch. 

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa

Grassley, one of the most senior members of the Senate, issued a statement Monday saying he would not oppose moving forward on a nomination. 

"I’ve consistently said that taking up and evaluating a nominee in 2020 would be a decision for the current chairman of the Judiciary Committee and the Senate Majority Leader," he said. "Both have confirmed their intentions to move forward, so that’s what will happen. Once the hearings are underway, it’s my responsibility to evaluate the nominee on the merits, just as I always have."

He told Iowa reporters in July he would not favor moving forward but said the decision was ultimately up to Graham or McConnell. 

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, joined at left by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, deals with objections from Democratic members of the panel as Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh waits to testify before on the third day of his confirmation hearing, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sept. 6, 2018.

“I would have to tell him that I wouldn't have a hearing," Grassley said. "But if he decides to have a hearing, that's his decision. And then whether or not the nominee would come up on the floor before the election would be Chairman (sic) McConnell's decision, and you would have to ask him what he's going to do in that regard." 

Grassley voted for Kavanaugh and Gorsuch.  

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas

Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas speaks briefly to reporters after he opened and closed a brief session of the U.S. Senate amid the partial government shutdown, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 27, 2018.

Roberts, a retiring Republican, said in a statement posted on Twitter Monday he would support filling the vacancy.

"It is the U.S. Senate’s constitutional duty to fill vacancies on the Supreme Court of the United States, and I support the decision to do so," he said

The Kansas Republican was viewed as one of the chamber’s institutionalists who could be wary of how filling this vacancy could impact the Senate long-term after Senate Republicans also blocked President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, in 2016. As a retiring senator, he did not have to worry about his re-election and the electoral implications of a decision on a nominee.

He had been eyed as a potential swing vote on some of the Senate's most consequential matters, such as earlier this year during Trump’s impeachment trial, though he ultimately voted to acquit Trump. 

Roberts voted for Kavanaugh and Gorsuch.